- Unique creative collaborations mark British Council’s move to Stratford, London
- Artists from India, Mexico and Pakistan partner digitally with counterparts in East London to exchange ideas and expertise
- Bespoke artworks include hanging sculpture, printed wall coverings and ceramic planters
The British Council has unveiled the creative results of its Housewarming Residencies at its new global headquarters at the International Quarter in Stratford, London.
The Residencies connected the British Council’s international artist networks with the creative communities of East London in an eight-week-long collaborative project across 2020. The project was curated and produced by Create London, who work with local communities in cities to commission art and architecture that is ambitious, purposeful and useful.
Following nominations from craft experts across the British Council’s global networks, three artists were selected to take part in February 2020. They are:
- Sakshi Gupta, contemporary sculptor, Mumbai, India: Gupta’s work, typically involving industrial waste and scrap metal, is a social commentary on the journey towards a digital age.
- Shehzil Malik, designer and illustrator, Lahore, Pakistan: Malik’s work, focusing on human rights, feminism and South Asian identity, includes collaborations with Sony Music and the New York Times.
- Daniel Valero, a ceramicist and textile designer, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: Valero’s creations and his furniture studio, Mestiza, explore space, mass and colour.
The artists developed ideas for the final objects in partnership with three local host organisations and creatives, alongside the teams at British Council and Create London. They are:
- Blackhorse Workshop (Waltham Forest) and artists James Kearney, Toby Poolman and Yesenia Thibault-Picazo, working with Sakshi Gupta on a hanging installation for the building’s atrium.
- OOMK (One of My Kind) at Rabbits Road Press (Newham) and artists Louisa Tock, Sadie St. Hillaire and Sahra Hersi, collaborating with Shehzil Malik on a series of portraits and wall coverings for communal meeting areas.
- Aaron Angell at Troy Town Art Pottery with Hoxton Gardenware (Hackney) and artists Amelia Brokenbrow, Ned Davies and Elliot Anderson, working with Daniel Valero on large scale ceramic planters for the building’s glasshouse.
Due to the impact of Covid-19, each residency evolved into a digital collaboration, with artists and organisations exchanging skills and ideas remotely. The global pandemic, and a need to connect via virtual means, has helped to inform and inspire each of the pieces now on display in Stratford.
Details of each of the British Council’s Housewarming Residency installations are below and images can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/3n4b7sf
Sakshi Gupta, Memories of Things Unseen (reclaimed corrugated sheet metal, steel tubes, rivets):
The use of corrugated metal embodies Gupta’s own experience during the 2020 lockdown of looking out of her apartment window and observing rooftops in Mumbai.
Suspended in mid-air in the building’s atrium, the installation brings together two distinct and recognisable elements: a canopy and a sail. The roof-like canopy resembles a temporary structure, such as a tent or a makeshift shelter that appears worn through exposure to extreme weather conditions. These components carry their own resonances and come together as a whole to frame a meditation on transience and the need for stability, symbolically marking global events of our time, including climate change, the displacement of people and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shehzil Malik, An Island Ruled by Queens (wallpaper); The Louisa Tapestry, The Sadie Tapestry, The Sahra Tapestry (digital prints on fabric):
These pieces, installed in the communal Stratford Suite meeting room, are based on conversations Malik had with artists from East London, covering topics such as what does home mean? how do women navigate public spaces? and how are artworks shaped by identity and surroundings?
Having never visited England, Malik depicts forms that represent ideas generated by her conversations, as if recording accounts of a far-away land. In the wallpaper, she adopts mixed motifs found in Persian and Arabic manuscripts with imagery inspired by William Morris, creating a pattern of stories of a folkloric island. She includes the Waq-Waq tree, part of medieval Arabic myth and found on an island inhabited only by women.
The portraits represent women imagined inhabiting the island, while also embodying the multicultural nature of East London communities, interwoven with patterns drawn from Malik's own Pakistani cultural heritage. The patterns and backgrounds were riso-printed and digitally collaged into the works.
Daniel Valero, Casts of Hoxton (stoneware, terracotta, clay):
Installed in the building’s glasshouse, Valero’s sculptural planters are inspired by hundreds of photographs the Hoxton Gardenware group shared of their local area, creating a vivid impression of everyday life and the built environment of the neighbourhood.
Valero’s residency was built around sessions discussing why the images were important to the group, generating observations of patterns, symbols and stories hidden within each image. Through the group’s gaze, Valero gained an insight into life in Hoxton, despite being thousands of miles away in Mexico.
Each of the forms is inspired by physical elements present in the images: brickwork, patterns of leaves on a wall, or rubbish chutes on the side of a block of flats. The varied colouration of the stoneware gives the pieces unique characters, as if each has its own story to tell.
Sevra Davis, Director Architecture, Design, Fashion at British Council, said:
‘I am delighted to unveil the results of these unique Housewarming Residencies, which have risen to the challenges and reflect the opportunities of virtual collaboration. Exchanging skills and innovation between international artists and our creative communities here in the UK reflects our mission at British Council to broker new relationships and also create new opportunities for collaboration. We are fortunate to not only have the creative installations at our British Council headquarters for the foreseeable future, but to welcome these incredible artists and designers to our global network.’